Chris Nash has been backed by his former opening partner Richard Montgomerie to come good for Sussex.

The pair were Sussex's regular openers last season when Montgomerie picked up the third Championship-winners medal of his career before retiring to take up a teaching job at Eton College.

Nash, 25, finished last season with an average of 30.19 and only two players faced more balls than him during the season, including Montgomerie, but he is struggling to improve in 2008.

His 14 Championship innings so far have brought him 282 runs at 21.69 and he has only passed 50 once compared to seven times last season.

In that regard, Nash is not alone. The averages do not lie and Sussex's hopes of climbing the first division table largely depend on their batsmen finding more consistent form.

Montgomerie experienced lean times of his own, of course, before ending his career on a high by passing 1,000 runs for the sixth time in 2007.

He said: "Nashy has good aggressive tendencies which suited me, funnily enough. I didn't have to worry about the scoring rate and he just allowed me to accumulate. He hits the ball cleanly and has displayed impressive maturity on a number of occasions."

Montgomerie was captaining Sussex with Chris Adams sidelined by injury in 2002 when Nash was called up from Loughborough University to make his Championship debut against Warwickshire.

In those days Nash was regarded as a spinning all-rounder and he picked up two wickets with his off-breaks - as well as a first-ball duck.

Four years later, Nash made 67 as Sussex defied Hampshire in a crucial tussle at Hove on their way to a second title and convinced Montgomerie that he had what it takes.

He said: "I think that innings alerted everyone at the club to his growing maturity and ability, I remember him dealing with Shane Warne in a very assured way."

Nash has made a decent fist of opening but Montgomerie believes he might eventually find a slot in Sussex's middle order, especially when players like skipper Chris Adams and Murray Goodwin follow Montgomerie into retirement.

He added: "He has a technique which can cope with opening. But perhaps he is more suited to the middle order eventually. Of course our three-four-five line-up at the moment is very decent but I'm sure Nashy will score runs wherever."

A player who has passed 50 so many times clearly has ability and Montgomerie believes it will not be long before he converts one of his starts into three figures.

Montgomerie said: "I'm sure once he gets his first hundred he will get more and more. It happened with Mike Yardy. He didn't get one for a long time then all of a sudden got loads on the trot."